PPP to contest SC move against Gilani: Report

Islamabad: The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party`s top leadership has decided to contest the Supreme Court`s move to frame contempt charges against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani while not seeking any sort of confrontation with the judiciary, according to a media report today.

Gilani`s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan is likely to file an appeal in a few days against the apex court`s order summoning the premier on February 13 for the framing of contempt of court charges for failing to act on orders to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The government`s stand in the matter has been influenced by its desire to ensure that nothing affects the holding of polls to the Senate or upper house of parliament scheduled for next month, The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying.

The PPP`s top leaders have advised cadres "not to resort to public rhetorical attacks against the assertive judiciary", the report said. The PPP will fight its case in court "with all its might", arguing that Zardari enjoys immunity under the Constitution from prosecution in all criminal proceedings inside and outside the country. Most PPP leaders were tight-lipped when asked to comment on yesterday?s proceedings in the apex court.

However, a majority of them said during informal interactions that the government was being "squeezed" by the judiciary. "We have a right to go for a review, as has been mentioned by the counsel of the PM," an unnamed PPP leader said. "One should not forget that after the 18th Amendment that right of a fair trial has been recognised as a basic right of every citizen under clause 10A of the Constitution."

The PPP leader was unsure if the government would comply with the court`s earlier orders and write a letter to Swiss authorities to revive graft cases against Zardari, but said that if this ever happened, it would be the last option as the party will not give up easily.

The PPP leaders said the party was focussed on the Senate elections. "Right now we have next month`s Senate elections as a top priority. We want to secure our majority in the upper house first. The legal team has also been asked to chalk out a strategy accordingly," a central leader of the PPP said. Elections to 54 Senate seats are set for March 2.

The PPP, with its current strength in provincial legislatures that will elect the Senators, is confident of securing maximum seats to make it the single largest party in the upper house. The PPP`s allies have been non-committal on the issue of the apex court`s order to revive the graft cases. Some allies have suggested the government should not confront the judiciary and write the letter to Swiss authorities to defuse the situation. The PPP`s top leadership, however, feels this would be "political suicide".